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  16/03/2013: Match Report: Lazio - Stuttgart
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Lazio: Marchetti; (43' Bizzarri) Pereirinha, Biava, Ciani, Radu; Candreva, Onazi, Hernanes (73' Ederson), Lulic; Mauri (65' Ledesma); Kozak.

Stuttgart: Ulreich; Sakai, Tasci, Niedermeier, Molinaro; Holzhauser; Hajnal (73' Harnik), Gentner, Okazaki, Macheda (64' Traore); Ibisevic

The game had barely started and it was over. Coming into a second leg at home and having 2-0 to fall back on gave Lazio a pleasurable lead to build from and with Kozak scoring on 6' and 8' this tie never turned into any greater competition. Stuttgart were never any threat, but there are still things to bring from the game up for discussion.

When the Check striker got his sixth and seventh goals in the Europa League he also tied it at the top of the goal scorer's chart with Cavani, who crashed out of the tournament with his Napoli in the last round, The first goal was all nice play as Candreva sent a beautiful low cross for Radu to knock even nicer into the box, where Kozak found the space and finished off the attack nicely.
Two minutes later Marchetti started a quick attack and Hernanes sliced open the Stuttgart defense with a well weighed long pass that Kozak brought with him and killed the game. The finish was again classy and this brings us to an interesting discussion. Why is it that Kozak is doing so well in the Europa League, while Petkovic barely uses him in the league – and when he does the tall attacker does not manage that well. The coach has commented Kozak one time recently and then he noted that the problem was to be found in the movement of the player; that Kozak did not move enough for the Italian game. Yet. Many Lazio supporters are hoping Kozak will have the breakthrough that had been awaited, while others doubt it will ever come. What is your take on the issue?

Also worth commenting is the fact the game was played behind closed doors. The sound on my link from Stadio Olimpico had only screaming of players and shouting of coaches, as UEFA denied Lazio in the appeal of reverting the punishment. Now Lazio will move into the quarter finals with confidence from not having lost yet in the competition and with one of the best attacks and the best defenses overall, but will again have to play without any support from Curva Nord. The opposition will be decided in a draw tomorrow and it surely feels like there could be some interesting teams visiting Rome in a fortnight.

The first half came to an end without any real drama, apart from a couple of shots on goal and a head injury to Marchetti forcing him to be replaced by Bizzarri. With Stuttgart in need of four goals to go through the second half was not the most tense second half of the season and Lazio did allow Stuttgart to come to quite a few chances and a goal in the process.

The midfield, consisting of Candreva, Onazi, Hernanes, Mauri and Lulic fell very far back when defending. The game might not have been the toughest test available but some of the changes made by Petkovic have shown successful in the last two games. Onazi and Ederson were the scorers in the first game, while Kozak got two today. Hernanes' slightly deeper role has was tested again and the Nigerian international has shown he might still have plenty of work to do to become a regular but also that he can be counted with when needed. Mauri made his return from start and played most of the match, of course in need of time to get into the flow of the game again, but it feels comfortable to have him tested too.

When Stuttgart finally managed to score on one of quite a few chance through the two games it was when the Lazio players did not put enough of an effort into the defending and Hajnal got plenty of time to open Bizzarri's goal with a shot. Stuttgart did threaten the Argentine on a few more occasions after this as well, through Okazaki and Gentner for example, but did not manage to bring any sort of nerve into this game, Lazio's defensive line, today consisting of Pereirinha, Ciani, Biava and Radu, continued to allow chances for the opposition and Lazio have to become tighter at the back despite the impressive run in Europe. In the league the results are very different and it is time to turn this win into something positive.

Before rounding off this evening – Kozak did get a third goal this evening. Again the 23-year old showed great class in the finishing part as he headed home a Candreva cross, seconds after missing another brilliant chance with only the goalkeeper to beat. Again Kozak found some space and did the most out of well placed passes. In the end he was the happiest man on the pitch and even made sure to bring the match ball with him home for future stories to be told. The next chapter of Lazio's Europa League journey will be written tomorrow, when one of Chelsea, Tottenham, Newcastle, Benfica, Rubin Kazan, Basel and Fenerbahce will be Lazio's next opponents.
Author: Khashayar Kashefi
 
 
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